Category Archives: Parenting

Little Boy On The Corner

boybeirutcurb

Sitting on the curb, just a normal concrete ledge

Two anxious little feet dangling over the edge

 

His backpack rests beside him filled with all that he should need

A blanket and some snacks for his stuffed friend Mr B.

 

With a cautious stare he looks, down an empty city block

Just praying he will see his daddy’s big black truck.

 

Mommy stands real close smoking a nervous cigarette

His deep blue eyes look up to ask, “Is he here yet?”

 

She’s been standing on this curb for far too many days

Ever since those papers came that parted both their ways.

 

He said this and she said that trying just to hurt each other

But what got up in the middle now sits on this small corner.

 

Little feet don’t care about who gets stuff and money

All they want is one house with a mommy and a daddy

 

Things get tough, feelings change, and the grass looks greener

But even through the rough times its worth if for your junior

 

Our actions speak greater than the size of all our words

Cuz those actions are what he follows as his begins to grow.

 

If this little voice could speak and say something that you’d hear

He’d ask you this small thing that might take away the tears.

 

In the moments when you feel like there’s nothing left to give

Did you open up my bedroom door and watch me sleeping there?

 

And if you did come in I have a question for you my father

Would you rather see me there than sitting on this corner?

 

Please don’t leave for things that are new or fresh or fun

Choose what’s never going to leave the love of me, your son.

 

Teach me how to live this life even when it’s rough.

Show me how to love my wife even if it’s tough.

 

I don’t want a weekend dad I see on every Tuesday

I want to see my dad each day I think that’s his duty.

 

So out there waits a boy just trying to grow stronger.

Will daddy sit down beside him or is he right around the corner?

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4 Summer “Musts” For Dads

So the summer has finally arrived and all my fellow dads are saying AMEN!  We start thinking of fishing, biking, golfing, grilling, and all things outdoors.  After the bone chilling winter all of us Chicago-ians experienced, we are ready to break out of the freeze and jump in the pool until we get nice and wrinkly.

But not so fast dads…

Before we check out and run off into the summer sunset, I think it’s vitally important that we don’t leave our family in the dust.  Sure some of those things I mentioned above can involve your family, but often we see those as our personal releases.  While I believe that is completely needed and warranted I also want to challenge you to spend time with your family too.

Here are 4 Summer “Musts” For Dads.

#1 – Don’t Take A Summer Break From God

I see it all the time.  When the thermostat goes up, church attendance goes down.  Now don’t get me wrong, heading out for a weekend trip is not a bad thing at all.  We do it too believe it or not!  The dangerous part is when you miss the whole summer.  As dads, our kids need to know that worshiping God isn’t seasonal.  We must lead in our commitment to come together to learn from God’s word and connecting with other people through service and community.  Stay connected with God by coming to church even if it means wearing your swimming trunks so you can jump right back in the pool.  Remember what the writer of Hebrews says:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Just remember, a relationship with God is not a seasonal activity.

 

#2 – Date Your Wife

When church attendance dips it usually will mark a decline in the happiness in marriages too.  While you are staying committed to attending church make a point to attend to your wife’s needs too.  Warmer weather reduces the number of excuses you have for dating your wife.  Make a point to go on a date at least once a week this summer even if only for an hour while the kids play at the neighbors.  Swap out a couple hours here and there with friends so they can get some time away too!  Invest in the relationship with your wife with the same intensity you care for your lawn, car, or golf swing.  You’ll be amazed that the results in your marriage are far more rewarding.

 

#3 – Spend Time With Your Kids (bleachers don’t count)

I am realizing more and more how busy our kids are getting these days.  I really love seeing Aniston playing t-ball, gymnastics, and dance, but I also know that when I’m watching her through a glass window or sitting in a camping chair I’m not really spending time with her.  I’m spending time around her but not with her.  The fact that Easton is there and we get to hang out on the swings is awesome, but even then my attention is divided.  My challenge to myself and to you is to take this summer and spend time with your kids.  I’m not saying stop attending their activities, but I’m am saying make a point to hang out with them one-on-one.  Go for a bike ride, take them fishing, let them help you wash the car, or even grab a few sandwiches and have a picnic.  Don’t worry no one will revoke your man card.

Here are a few places to get ideas:

10 Things To Do With Your Teens by: All Pro Dads

10 Things To Do With Your Daughters  By: AskMen

5 Things To Do With Your Sons By: AskMen

 

#4 – Make A Difference In Your Community

I know that when summer hits we all find ways to get away and spend extra time doing stuff.  The relaxation factor is critical to recharging our batteries before the next winter blast hits, but that can only last so long.  All of us as men have a desire to fix things, go on a mission, or get our hands dirty.  My final challenge to you is to make a difference in your community with the extra time you have this summer.  Involve your family in this process as you teach them the value of giving back, taking care of those in need, and being selfless.  There are needs all around you so don’t make the excuse you don’t know where to start!  Ok, let me give you a list to jump off from:

  • Ask a local church for a list of the organizations they support and call one of them.
  • Find a soup kitchen for the homeless and volunteer.
  • If you kids are old enough, grab the lawn mowers and start mowing people’s yards for free.
  • Grab a bag and some gloves and pick up trash on the side of the road.
  • Set up a free car wash with no strings attached for the neighborhood.
  • E-mail me and come paint my house :)

Summer is great, but just like Christmas decorations the excitement fades after a few weeks.  Don’t get into a summer rut this year.  Be intentional about what you do with your individual free time, but also with the time you spend with you family.  Never lose sight that where you find your most joy and energy is in the family God has given you.  Spending time with them and working on your relationship with God will grow you more than you ever thought possible.  Get into this habit now and regardless of what the thermostat says you will always be warm inside.

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True Confessions Of A First Time Dad: Sometimes You Just Have To Ride In The Cart

Speedy BabyMy son and I went to Target the other day (shocking I know) to get a few things.  It was a typical Thursday outing for us with Aniston at school and 2 hours of times to kill in the wintery Chicago weather.  Normally, we would have gone outside, but since hypothermia didn’t seem to be an attractive option we stayed inside.  Lil’ E was being so good that he didn’t even try to arm rake any of the glass spaghetti jars off the shelves for once!

Let me tell you that is a huge deal.

We had just finished shopping and it was time for check out.  This is a good thing because Easton knows it means we are almost out the door and that he gets to “help me” put the things on the conveyor belt.

Side Note: Doesn’t it always seems when you put things on that belt that they multiply in your cart.  I feel like Mary Poppins pulling stuff out of her bag as I unload.  It just keeps coming!

Anyway, this day we got in line and wouldn’t you know it we got stuck behind Coupony Couperson and her 35 boxes of mac and cheese to go with her 17 cases of Tic Tacs.  We were in for a long haul since Target only opens up 1.5 lanes out of their possibly 71 in the morning.  We were stuck.  It didn’t take long for Easton to be “done” with sitting in cart and started to fuss.  Before it got out of hand I decided to try something.

The fine folks at Target now have front facing, double seated carts for the kids.  Granted it makes you feel like you are pushing a “67 El Camino around the store, but they do drive like butter and the kids love it.  So when Easton started to get antsy I just decided to grab a seat right by him.  Yep, I popped a squat in the little toddler sized booty holder and we chatted.

You should have seen his face…he LOVED it!  He instantly went from fussing to talking about everything on his mind that no one understood but him.  His hands started making signs that made more sense than that weird dude at the Nelson Mandela funeral.  But what was so cool was that he totally relaxed!  We had a great daddy moment while the woman ahead of us checked out the last of her items so she could scurry back home to her Apocalypse bomb shelter and put away her rations.

This spoke to me on a couple different levels and no I’m not becoming a couponer.

First, it showed me how important it is to be present with your kids.  We all see parents that will ignore their kids while they text their girlfriends important things like their high score on Candy Crush.  Some parents will just simply endure their time with their kids until they can get home and turn on the Disney Channel.  Still others will look at their kids as if they are a nuisance and hindrance to their entire existence…as if they were the ones that chose to be born and now have inconvenienced them.

Our kids need us to engage with them and constantly reiterate that they matter.  This doesn’t mean that letting them watch a show from time to time is bad or that communicating with your friends is sinful, but when your kids have to beg for your attention something is wrong.  I have heard it said time and time again by older parents that they ”wish they would have soaked up the earlier years more because now that they are all grown up it’s different.”  I simply don’t want to be that regretful parent.  To do this we must realize it takes time, energy, and patience, but I believe it will make a world of difference in our kids futures.  The call can wait, but a moment with your kids will fly by never to be had again.

The other thing that this cart conversation did for me was remind me that this is exactly what Jesus did.  No, he didn’t conquer the Target challenge and spend less than $100 dollars, although that may have been a cool miracle to see happen!  It was much more powerful than even that.

Even though He was God Jesus often would get down on the level of the people he was ministering to so that He could relate.  Even beyond being the obvious incarnate God-Man, Jesus,  who become man to live amongst His creation, He went further time and time again to know us.  We see this in places such as when He hung out with kids, dined with sinners, stooped down to help the adulterous women, but one that stands out to me is when He chose his disciples.

One day Jesus ascends a mountain to pray about who He was going to choose to join Him in his close circle of disciples.   After finishing, He calls the 12 together together and then descends the mountain.  It’s here in Luke 6:17 where the good stuff happens as Luke says“He went down with them and stood on a level place.”  Jesus chose not to preach, teach, and minister from a platform, but from the bottom floor.  He chose to see them eyeball to eyeball instead of over the bridge of his elevated nose.  Jesus got on their level so He could know their level and He still does that today.

Our kids need this too.

They need us to hangout with them in the cart and they need us to tell them about God in a way they can understand.  Heck, they need us to tell them about God period!  After all, what good will it do if they know their math facts by they time the reach 4 years old by playing a Fisher Price game on the iPad if they don’t know who the Son of God is!?  Our kids need to see that God is important to us and worth our time to tell them about Him.  We can’t expect the Sunday school teachers or the pastors to do it all.  We are the most influential people in our kid’s lives so  we need to use that influence to tell them about who God is and what He’s done for us.

On their level…eye to eye…life to life.

So give yourself permission to sit in the cart from time to time.  Your kids will love the time with you and it will give you chance to be on their level.  Who knows what you might see and what opportunities God may give you to tell them about Him.

Don’t be afraid of hanging out with your kids…be afraid of the coupon lady that just bought the last case of bottled water.

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Daddy Confessions: I Dropped My Son Off At School 1 Year Early

The-One-Big-Mistake-Every-Consumer-MakesI have the awesome privilege of dropping my daughter, Aniston, off at school three days a week.  Usually I will first drop my son Easton off at the house of our amazing family friends who watch him before school though.  The only exception to that rhythm is on Thursday which is my day off during the week and apply known as “daddy day.”

Well this last Thursday I dropped Aniston off and got distracted by Christmas Card delivering, hellos to fellow parents, quick thank you’s to the teachers, and a kiss goodbye to Aniston.  I started down the hall to leave and nearly got to the exit doors when I realized something.

I forgot my son.

Yep, sure enough I totally walked out of the classroom and left my little  11/2 year old boy behind.

I sheepishly slinked back in the room to find him completely fine and playing at the toy makeup station.  Clearly, the therapy needed later will swell beyond just abandonment issues based on the toy selection just mentioned, but that’s for another blog.  Anyway, I scooped him up, ate some crow from the teachers and headed out the door.

Not that it’s ever a good idea for you to leave your child, but it’s especially frowned upon when you are a pastor at the church you just left your child at.  Talk about feeling like a dingy and the most under qualified human being in the world!  Just know I will joke that I simply dropped him off at school a year early or something like that if you ask me later.

As parents, we all feel like we are doing a poor job at this whole parenting thing.  We worry that our kids will grow up to hate us, we won’t teach them the right stuff and they’ll flunk out of school, they will marry a career felon and end up selling drugs, or they will become a famous comedian whose entire body of work centers around the mistakes you made raising them.

Wait…

Ok…

Maybe that is just my wife and mine’s fears?

Regardless, you have your own concerns too, but I’m here to tell you to hang in there.  You are not alone and in fact Jesus’ parents would tell you the same thing.  After all they may have had the Son of God under their roof, but that didn’t make them immune to mistakes in parenting.

Luke captures one of these famous parenting flubs in Luke 2.  We pick up the story after Mary and Joseph had made their way to Jerusalem with a now 12 year old Jesus.  They finished their time at the temple and decided to head home.  As they head home we read this.

“After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.” Luke 2:43-45

Yes, you read that right.  Mary and Joseph LOST Jesus and didn’t know until they had travelled for an E-N-T-I-R-E day!  I’m feeling better already about myself since I only made it 50 yards before I remember Easton was gone.  Check out what happens next.

“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”Luke 2:46-49

I hope you didn’t blow past it, but It took them THREE DAYS to find him!!!  Are you kidding me?

I know that I almost lost a future Cincinnati Red’s Second Baseman and inevitable Hall of Fame inductee, my son Easton, but at least I didn’t lose GOD the King of the Universe!

Come on people!

One job:  Don’t lose the Son of God.

Yet, through my sarcasm there is a message that goes beyond making us feel better about not being the best parents all the time.  The message is deeper and speaks to the priorities we have for our kids.  Jesus said that He “had to be in (His) Father’s house” because that is where he was the most alive.  In the times of Jesus, the temple was where the presence of God literally resided so why would the Son not want to be by his Dad?  Mary and Joseph may have lost him, but he was truly never more found than at the moment.

The reality is that we will lose our kids someday.

They will move away, go to college, get married, and start their own lives apart from us.  We want that.  They want that.  God wants that!  But what is most important is HOW they are leaving.

  • Are our kids leaving brought up in the ways of the Lord or have we left them to “figure it out on their own” because we didn’t’ want to “push anything on them”?
  • Will our kids know who God is because they were around Christian men and women, in church each week to hear God’s message, and living out their faith with you as the example?
  • Will our kids grow up to be the God fearing men and women of faith we want them to be or will they float in the sea of religion with us hoping they will land on the shores of Christianity?

Yes parenting is hard and we all fail, but I would much rather fail while striving to make Jesus the center of our homes than passively parenting hoping they turn out ok.  I would rather have them stumble and fall in life (which they will), but have God as the center of the world so they are not crushed.  I pray that our kids would want to come to church so they could be “in their Father’s house” and connect with Him not in a sterile religious way, but in a vibrant relationship.  That’s the true definition of success!  It’s not in trophies won, ribbons pinned, scholarships awarded, or millions earned.  It’s in whether or not your kids know Christ or are lost.

We have to realize that we will lose our kids inevitably, but while we have the chance we can let them know the name of Jesus as Lord.  We have to make every effort to have them be found by Christ so they won’t be lost for eternity.

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A Challenge For Dads: You Are Not A Babysitter

Dad LogoI never used to pay very close attention to it until I started wanting kids, but some dads are jerks when they talk about their children.  I wish I could say it differently, but I can’t put in any other terms.  Some dads are absolute jerks.

Now as harsh as that sounds, I also believe that most men don’t want to be this way.  I truly believe in my heart of hearts that nearly every dad wants to be a good one, but they are stuck in old patterns they saw growing up or entrenched in bad habits they have created along the way.  As men we sometimes need to have things pointed out to us straight and clear.  My intention in this piece is to do that and hopefully challenge, encourage, and stir up a Godly desire to reengage with your family.

Here are a few of the biggest issues I see with dads today that need to be dealt with:

Dads That Refer To Their Child As “The Kid”

  • Example:  “Sorry boys I can’t play cards tonight, I gotta go pick up the kid now.”

First and foremost your child is a not a thing, an “it”, or a “the”.  They are your flesh and blood and who you love.  I know every man reading this would take a bullet for their child, but some dads aren’t around enough to even be in the line of fire if was needed!  All of us should know this, but as Christian men we should be keenly aware of the truth that God sees Himself as a Father.  Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 6:18 “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  If we are viewed by the Creator of all as a son and daughter in His family then we should see our children not as “the kid”, but as our son or daughter that we love and cherish.  Words are powerful so choose them wisely when referring to your family.

Dads That Won’t Change Diapers, Wipe Butts, Clean Up Puke, Or Get Dirty 

  • Example:  “Oh, I don’t do diapers.  That’s a mom’s job.”

Can I let you in on a little secret dads?  Your wife doesn’t get all geeked out about doing these things either.  She’s not secretly dreaming about being wrist deep in a huge naval to neck blowout poop from sweet potato baby food.  That isn’t on the “boy, I can’t wait until I have kids list”.  Here’s a hint, if you can gut a fish you can change a diaper.  If you can use a Port-O-Potty at an outdoor concert you can clean up poop.  If you can smear synthetic urine on your clothes and hide in a tree for for 4 hours to shoot a deer you’ve lured in you can clean up puke from the carpet.  Your wife needs you men and not just to open tight jar lids.  They need you in the middle of the battle with them.  Don’t be surprised if your wife isn’t all over you at night if you are no where to be seen during the day. Being a dad means getting dirty and being there for your kids.  They need to see a dad that is there in their worst and most vulnerable times, not just when they are getting the game ball after the t-ball game.

Dad’s Who Don’t Change Their Personal Schedule After They Have Children

  • Example:  “Honey, I’m sorry I can’t get home again tonight, I’ve got another Fantasy Football Draft.”

Men, if we want to be effective dads our schedules have to change.  That means we forfeit things that we used to do so that we can engage in things our kids need us to do.  I’m not saying don’t play softball anymore, I’m just saying don’t play on 10 softball teams anymore and travel to Texas every weekend for the “I Just Can’t Give Up The Glory Days Invitational”.  Your handicap in golf will go up, your bowling average will go down, your ability to read a bluff in poker will suffer, and your car will be less waxed, buffed, and shined, but your kids will know you love them and you will know your kids!  Equally as important is that your wife will see this sacrifice as well.  I’m pretty sure she wasn’t thrilled about getting stretch marks, gaining 50 pounds, and having her body chemistry go out of whack so clearly she’s personally sacrificed for the family and we should too.

Dads That Won’t Get Up

  • Example:  “Babe, I gotta work in the morning so I need my sleep.  You understand right?”

Being a parent doesn’t end when your head hits the pillow.  Especially if you have super little ones that get up in the night or even big ones that sometimes get up in the night.  Having a “The Office Is Closed” sign on your bedroom door just won’t cut it.  Our kids need us all the time.  Men we need to be the ones serving our families by taking our turns getting up at night.  Don’t let your wife be the one that has to figure out how to function on 2 hours of sleep every day.  Take the initiative and get up.  This also means that if you really liked to be a night owl before you had kids that’s going to have to change.  I’m not sure if you knew this, but our kids are awake during the day and need you during the day too.  So either get less sleep or get on normal human being sleep cycles to be there for your wife and children.

Dads That Say They Have To “Babysit Their Children”

  • Example:  “Yeah, I have to babysit the kids tonight so the wife can go out.”

The final one may irk me the most.  I hear dads all the time that say they have to “babysit their kids” when they get home.  Listen, a babysitter is a high school girl that you leave with your kids while you and your wife go on a date.  You tell them to eat whatever’s in the fridge, don’t invite boys over to make out with, and keep your kids safe.  You certainly don’t ask them to parent your kids or instill in them the values of life.  That’s OUR job to do that.  Yet, I know men that when they get home they might as well be a babysitter.  Inattentive, uninvolved, and unmotivated to be there with their kids.  Men, we are not babysitters we are fathers.  We need to step up and start raising our kids too.  We can’t put the parenting weight on the shoulders of our wives and then berate them later when our kids don’t respect us.  We need to be the men that are shoulder-to-shoulder with our wives teaching, loving, correcting, and raising Godly men and women.  It’s no wonder so many professional athletes thank their mom after the big play!

Please know that I am a jerk sometimes too.  As a dad, I screw up all the time.  I’ve recently been seeking God to help me become more patient, so clearly I’ve got my junk to deal with too.  What I can guarantee is that I am 100% in the fight with my family.  I realize we have only one chance at our kids being 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on.  I don’t want to ever look back and wish I would have been there to experience those times.

Men it’s time to get in the game and start leading our families. Take your kids on dates with just you.  Drive them to school and be late for work once and awhile.  Tuck them in bed and don’t worry if it takes a long time.  Honor their mom well and above all, tell them that you love them often.

Don’t just be a babysitter in their lives..be their dad.

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You Can’t Kill My Hope

hope-2012As the father of two beautiful children, I have witnessed the miracle of birth first hand.  It is one of the most amazing and horrifying things I’ve ever experienced. :)  Years of praying, nine months of growing, and hours of pushing result in the beginning of a new chapter in our lives as parents and in our child’s.  In nearly every way this new life has the freshest and cleanest of views of the world.  Nothing has been tainted but all is new to be discovered.

Yet we all know that difficult times will come to this new life as we all can speak from personal experience.  We quickly realize that life is hard and full of challenges that will test even our toughest resolve.  What I pray for my children is not that they live a challenge free life, but that one day they will meet Jesus as their Lord and Savior and these challenges will take on a new form.  You see, a Believer in Christ no longer sees challenges as things to endure, but opportunities to slowly transform into the person God wants them to be.  As Peter says, “though now you for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith…may be proven genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6b-7)

What suffering and trials do for us is refine us into who God wants us to be.  Not so that we can follow the rules closer and learn from our mistakes, but that we may come into a closer relationship with Him.  As the writer of Hebrews says, “The former regulation is set aside because it is weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 6:18-19).  The reward for this endurance is not found in our ability to overcome these by our strength, but is rooted in a “new living hope” which is Jesus Christ.  Earlier in 1 Peter we read, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

You see we worship a God that isn’t dead, but very much alive.  He may have been crucified as a common criminal, but nothing about his death was common.  For crying out loud not even the confines of death could keep Him down and as a result we are given the confidence and hope of that same victory!  This is the hope that never dies and allows us the confidence to keep pushing forward in all that we do.

So may we grasp the truth that although the world may no longer be a blank canvas as it was when were born, the hope we find in Christ propels us forward into the masterpiece that is a life rooted in Him.  No matter what this life may throw at you and I, it can never kill our Hope.

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When Our Kids Become Our god

Kids PicGod created a very specific and harmonized way of living that creates balance, peace, and life within in us.

I’ve best been able to summarize it this way:

 

#1 God

#2 Spouse

#3 Kids

#4 Everything Else

On face value no one really argues with this list when I present it to them.  Even if you are only known as a Christian by the box you check when Census people come by, putting the Creator of the Universe first on a list makes sense.  Yet God’s desire to be #1 in our life goes beyond an ego trip that we may feel He commands.

Placing God at the center of our life provides a rock and foundation that is unmovable, unshakable, and infallible.  He provides the filter by which we live the rest of our life and gives us the perfect direction with which to live.

Our spouse takes the second position because it is the most important human relationship we’ve been given.  God has asked us to love and respect our spouse like He loved and cared for the Church.  If you didn’t know He gave up His one and only Son for it so it’s a pretty big deal.

Our kids find the third spot and rightfully so because had there been no God or no spouse there would be no children.  Now I realize we live in a world were dads are optional in some cases or nonexistent, but in the Shalom that God created both mom and dad are present and active.  Their position in our lives is important because as we grow and nurture them, they need to see the proper priorities God designed us to have.

The children we have been blessed with from God will learn the most about Him from us.  It’s our job to show them His proper place in our life so they have a better opportunity to give Him the proper place in theirs.

Proverbs 20:7 says “The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him.”

Proverbs 22:6 tells us “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of people who raised their children in the Lord and the kids strayed.  There is no guarantee that church attendance or youth group involvement will lead a child to a relationship with Christ.  However I will also say that there is a much greater chance they will find Christ if you do keep them involved and part of God centered things both inside the home and outside.

You see when the children lose their proper place in our lives and leapfrog both our spouse and God the harmony God created gets out of whack.  Since the #1 spot is reserved for what we worship the most and give our most attention to, our kids now have become our god.

Don’t believe me?

Here is a few questions to chew on:

  • If your child has a music practice on Sunday that will make them miss church which do you choose?  Church or Practice?
  • If your child doesn’t want to go to church on Sunday do you skip because they won’t go?
  • Does your child decide where you go and what you do on a consistent basis or do you and your spouse?
  • If you commit to a Life Group and you have to miss one of your child’s games to attend do skip group or go to the group?

Don’t misunderstand me, I love sports, activities, and our kids.  I did more stuff growing up than you can even imagine including gymnastics…for 1 day…until they made me do the splits.  I got a sports scholarship and academic scholarship for college for crying out loud so I get the importance.

All I’m saying is that if our children’s schedules and needs cause us to step away from commitments, miss church all together, sacrifice our relationship with our wife, or put God on the back burner we’ve got a priority problem.

The problem is not just hurting us but also our children.

By placing our kids in a position they were never meant to occupy we put more pressure and expectation on them that they can’t withstand.  We need to take the lead as parents and demonstrate the faith we tell them we have.

Hosea 13:4 cuts to the heart of the matter, “You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.”

When we make choices that elevate God in our lives we elevate God in their lives.

If we want our kids to live lives that are God centered than we have to put God at the center of our life all the time not just in the off season of their activities.

I believe most parents don’t mean to do this in fact I think that they just get caught up in doing life and wanting to love their kids well.  I also believe that we can start making changes today to our lives that will re-prioritize things to a better rhythm.

In the end, I’d much rather have my kids have an average relationship with their coach than an average relationship with Jesus.

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A Prayer For The School Year

As most students head back to school I wanted to take a moment and pray for them and perhaps for my fellow parents too.

 

Mighty God and Father, 

Thank you for the breath of life you have given us today and the chance to live this day for You.  We don’t take for granted the talents, gifts, and opportunities You have allowed us to have and we pray we are able to use them to Glorify You in all that we do.

Father, as we send our children back to school we do so with mixed emotions.  We are thankful for the months of rest and vacation we’ve had, but we also know that its end is a good thing.  Every year we send them off back to school we are encouraging them to work hard, learn much, and live a life full of Your love.  We take this time Lord to lift up this school year to You and ask Your hand be on it.

Lord as they walk in the hallways and are guided to their classrooms we pray Your hand be on the very building they reside.  Surround it with you angels and allow no evil to come upon the teachers, staff, or students.  May it be a place of refuge and enjoyment every minute they are within those walls.

Mighty God, be with the teachers and let them teach with clear minds and heart’s of integrity teach towards our children.  Be with their families that they leave behind each day to teach our children.  May they be guided by Your hand and Your thoughts so that regardless of subject taught our children may be amazed at the world You have created.

Father, allow our children’s minds to think clearly and be focused on what is being taught.  May their attention not be swayed what other’s may think or the things they don’t have, but completely at peace knowing we love them and so do You. 

Holy Spirit fill our children to capacity with your encouragement and love that no words or miss guided children can effect them.  Allow them to filter everything they hear through the truth of Your love and be confident in who they are in You.

Let them work hard, have fun, and enjoy being with friends this year Lord.  May this year be the most peaceful and productive year they have ever experienced.  And allow Your love to shine through them so much that others around them desire to know what it is they have in their life.  In that moment may they be confident in their faith and speak confidently of who You are and the love you have for us all.

May every step they take, bus ride the enjoy, or car ride with friends they look forward to be guided by Your Hand and bring them safely back to us each day.   

Lastly Father, be with us as the parents of these blessings you have given us.  May we not hold them too tightly that we crush them or too loosely that we lose them.  Help us find balance in loving and leading, but through all the hills and valleys we encounter may we enjoy the ride it is to be a parent.

We humbly thank you Father for all that You do in our live’s that we see and we don’t see.  Bless our children this school year and beyond as we fall confidently into Your will. 

It is in the matchless name of Jesus Christ we commit all these things.

Amen

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5 Ways To Have A Better Father’s Day Next Year

fathers-day-2Father’s Day came and went.

Another moment in time when we stop to recognize men for being fathers.  A day that says “thanks dad” by grilling meat without green stuff, buying dad a tie or mug, and letting him sneak in a nap without anyone getting on his case for being lazy.

Yet I know there are dads out there, like me, that would love to have looked back on the last year and done a little better as a dad.  We can all think of areas we wish we could have done a little bit more or done a whole lot less when raising our kids.

Sure this can be a monotonous exercise bordering on insanity, but here are

5 things I believe we can do as dads this year to enjoy our next Father’s Day.

 

1. Realign Your Priorities

This year let’s start by realigning our priorities.   Maybe this year we can say “no” overtime and “yes” to playtime with our kids so we won’t look back with regret.  Let’s reorganize the “org chart” of our life and strive to put God first, wife second, kids third, and everything else after that.  If we reorganize now we will have less to regret later. Work tasks can be completed, lawns can still be mowed, and the gym will always be there but our kids keep growing and marching forward with or without us.

 

2.  Love Your Kids’ Mother 

If you want to be a better father start by being a better husband.  One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a strong marriage to observe and emulate.  Now, I understand there are lots of single parents out there who are both mom and dad at times.  I realize you have a tremendous uphill climb that I pray God strengthens you through.  However there are plenty of dads out there who are married and they need to step up and love their wives.  The pity party is over, it’s time for action.  Rise up off the couch, get out of bed, come home on time, quit a softball league or 6, and invest time and energy into your family.  That’s what they care about maybe, we should too.

 

3.  Put Your Kids To Bed 

There are so many ways we can interact with our kids. But I know for me, few can compare with bedtime.  Sure it can be crazy, yes kids stall to squeeze in a few more seconds of “freedom”, and I too want to sit on the couch just as much as the next guy, but something magical happens when my kids snuggle in for bed.  It’s as if they are the most open to talk, let their guard down, and listen.  Take this time to talk with your kids about their hopes, fears, and future before they drift off to dream about it anyway.  But don’t stop there.  Pray with them too and let them know that both of their dads love them very much.  The lower case “d” dad and the big “D” dad.

 

4.  Lead Your Family To Church

Nearly every dad I’ve come across wants their children and family to know about God.  I’m willing to bet 98% of the guys I talk to want that, but less than 5% of that group are willing to be the leader in making it reality.  They will either pack up the wife and kids and send them to get their “God fill-up” or they will treat God like a fad diet and yo-yo their spiritual life until they just quit altogether.  Don’t make your wife be the spiritual initiator in the family this year.  You set the pace for the family and make going to church is as important as watching the football game.  After all, what good will it do if your kids know the Bears starting line-up by memory, but have no idea who God is when it’s all said and done?

 

5.  Read Your Bible

I guarantee every morning my kids will see two things when they get to the kitchen.  A cup of coffee on the counter and my Bible right next to it.  I pray that when my kids grow up they remember that.  But even if they don’t, I will still have a cup of coffee and my Bible every morning.  Why?  Because I read my Bible to further my relationship with God not to look cool to my kids.  However, as I read my Bible I can’t help but see how God wants me to be a better father, husband, and man.  The bottom line is that if I’m in the Word I’m less likely to be in the World which means I’m hard at Work.

So get to work men!  There’s a better Father’s Day in your future if you do.

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Why All Of Us Should Care About What Happened At Rutgers…Especially Coaches

I know about athletics.  I played nearly every sport possible growing up, I went to college to play a sport, and for awhile I was given a paycheck to play a sport.  With every sport I played I had coaches that shaped my athletic skills and also shaped me as a young man.

I know about coaching.  I grew up in a family of coaches.  Both my father and grandfather are in the South Dakota Hall of Fame for coaching, my brother is a college coach, and I have even coached in small capacities.  I understand the stress, fatigue, frustration, and joy found in seeing athletes compete and succeed.

However the relationship of a player and coach is unique.  It’s one that requires trust, encouragement, discipline, patience, and honesty to be the most effective.  The higher you go in athletics the more each of you place your future in each other’s hands.  Coaches need players to play well, so they’ll win games, so they will keep their jobs.  Players need good coaches so they will play well, win games, get exposure, and maybe get a job playing that sport someday.

Yet the stresses of this job dynamic can be heavy.  Coaches walk a fine line of being challenging to their young players and being abusive to them.  I’ve had helpings of each in my life and I can tell you both have left a mark.

Recently, former Rutgers University Head Coach Mike Rice crossed that fine line. If you haven’t seen footage yet, here is what sparked Mr. Rice’s firing, the resignation of an assistant coach, and the resignation of the Athletic Director of the school.

ESPN Outside the Lines Story

I can relate to these players.  In my years of playing I’ve had coaches threaten to drown me, tell me they want to kill me with a 2*4 with a nail in the end of it, push, shove, knock me down, and throw baseballs at my head while being told by this coach they wanted to “F me Up”.  Sadly, the coach that wanted to “F me Up” said he was a Christian too.  I’ve been called worthless, useless, disgraceful, and belittled in front of my teammates.  Believe me I’ve had long car ride homes and walks back to the dorms following these lashings that were mentally and emotionally excruciating.

I say all this not so you’ll feel sorry for me because believe me I’m ok.  Most of, if not all of these men are out of jobs and away from coaching which is good for the players and the sports they coach.

My reason for saying this is that if it weren’t for a good home, good friends, and a relationship with Jesus Christ I may not have been ok.  The impact coaches have on players is amazingly powerful.  We will literally run through walls for them and that can be dangerous depending on what wall they want us to run through.

The Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal shed a spotlight onto coaching and the type of power that these men carry.  Now, I’m not saying that throwing basketballs at players and verbally abusing them is the same as what Sandusky did.  The sexual abuse of those kids goes into a whole other level of severity, but what I am saying is that the impact coaches have on their players is lasting both good and bad.

The best coaches I had were the ones that reminded me of the balance between sports and life.  They taught be great skills of the game, but instilled in me that there is more to life than scoring points, hitting home runs, or making millions of dollars.  When character, integrity, and hard work were the cornerstones of their coaching that’s when I flourished.  You may not have been able to see it in instant production on the field, but I can guarantee you can see it my life today far after I’ve taken the uniform off.

Parents.  Continue to encourage your kids and push them to do great things.  Don’t read this and pull them out of everything they are involved with because they may get a dud coach.  Keep them involved and active in their schools and communities.  Just make sure you are the safe place they can come home to regardless of how they play.  Take them to church, speak often of the bigger things of life, and instill in them a greater awareness of the needs of others not just their own.

Coaches.  I urge you to understand the power you have been given.  The next time you huddle up, sit in a locker room, or give your pre-game speech take an extra second to think.  Before you craft the next inspirational word look into their eyes.  See them for who they really are in that moment.  Young men and women that are in need of molding and are looking to you for it.  Yes I want you to win!  Yes I want them to win!  But what I want you to remember is howyou teach them, what you teach them, and why you teach them will effect them far after the season is over.

The final buzzer in life will sound for all of us at some point.  It’s what you do with the time God gives you between the dates on your gravestone not the date etched on a trophy that matter.

Stay focused on the bigger picture and understand the bigger impact.

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